Diagnostic Procedures

Peter Wishnie, D.P.M.
Owner of Family Foot & Ankle Specialists in Piscataway & Hillsborough, NJ
Computed Tomography

Sometimes, a podiatrist may prescribe a computed tomography (CT) examination (also known as a "CAT scan") to help diagnose and treat a foot or ankle problem. A CT is a kind of X-ray device that takes cross sectional images of a part of the body, giving the physician a three-dimensional image:

Common foot problems a CT exam can address include: arthritis, deformities, flat feet, foreign bodies, fractures, infection, and tumors.

CT scans are often superior to conventional X-rays because they can more accurately pinpoint a suspected problem.

Pregnant women, especially those in their first trimester, are advised against having a CT exam or any X-ray examination.

X-Rays

X-rays of the hand, wrist, arm, foot, ankle, knee, or leg help determine whether a bone has been fractured or injured or damaged by conditions such as an infection, arthritis, or other disease.

Other reasons for conventional X-rays on your feet include:
  • Evaluate changes in the bones caused by such things as an infection, arthritis, or other bone disease.
     
  • Help evaluate whether a child's bones are growing normally.
     
  • Locate foreign objects (such as pieces of glass or metal) in a wound.
     
  • To determine whether bones are properly set after treating a fracture and placing a cast on an arm or leg.
     
Pregnant women, especially those in their first trimester, are advised against having a CT exam or any X-ray examination. Extremity X-rays usually takes only five to 10 minutes.

While extremity X-rays do a good job showing bone fractures or dislocations, they are not very accurate when it comes to showing affected cartilage, tendons, or ligaments. A MRI or CT scan may be prescribed.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging is a sophisticated diagnostic procedure to diagnose the following kinds of problems or conditions:
  • Arthritis.
  • Fractures.
  • Infection.
  • Injuries of the tendons, ligaments, or cartilage.
  • Tumors.
MRIs use no radiation like conventional X-rays or CT scans. They employ a large magnet and radio waves to produce a kind of three-dimensional image. MRIs are very good at portraying soft tissues and bones in your feet and ankles.

People with the following conditions may not be good candidates for a MRI:
  • A condition that requires a heart pacemaker.
  • Electronic inner ear implants.
  • Electronic stimulators.
  • Implanted pumps.
  • Metal fragments in your eyes.
  • Some artificial heart valves.
  • Surgical clips in your head (particularly aneurysm clips).
If you have a dental filling or bridge, a replacement hip or knee, or tubal ligation clips, you are usually safe to have a MRI.

In most cases, a full exam of the foot and ankle last between one hour to 90 minutes.